Competition to add lyrics to Spain's national anthem reaches crescendo

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The Independent Online

Spanish sports stars will no longer have to shuffle their feet in silence as their national anthem is played as a competition to add words to the 150-year-old tune comes to a close tomorrow.

The late crooner Rocío Jurado, loved by legions for her sugary tales of love and loss, and Joaquin Sabina, the staunchly Republican Bob Dylan-esque singer, are the bookies' favourites to win the contest to find words for the militaristic dirge which passes for an anthem.

Spain's sporting chiefs asked a panel of academics and musicians to pick from between nearly 7,000 contenders to relieve the national embarrassment. Alejandro Blanco, the president of Spain's Olympic Committee, whose idea it was to find words to the "Royal March", will unveil the winner tomorrow. "Spain is a country with cheerful people who sing at any opportunity, so why shouldn't they be able to sing the words of a national anthem?" he argued.

The winning entry will be debated by the Spanish parliament, before a final decision is made and the new anthem gets its first outing on the international stage at next year's European Football Championships in Austria and Switzerland.

But whoever's patriotic scribblings are picked, they are sure to upset someone in a country where no one has been able to come up with suitable lines for the anthem. If the words are seen to be too patriotic, they may bring back memories of the dictator General Francisco Franco, but if they are too left wing, they will appear to be a homage to the Republicans of the Civil War and upset the right.

Then the words must pander to the regional sensibilities of the Basques and the Catalans. So the lyrics to the Spanish national anthem must not be too, well, Spanish. And the Catholic Church may be upset if there is no mention of God.

One of the frontrunners is Sabina, a Republican who counts the Spanish royal family among his friends. But his lines, "Neither subjects nor masters, nor resigned nor cannon fodder" may prove too left wing for some. And his ode makes no mention of God, but rather "goddess reason".

An unlikely rival is the version of the Andalusian "national anthem" as sung by Rocío Jurado, who died in 2006. The appeal of her version can be explained by the fact that her death was met with the same level of national grieving as the death of the Queen Mother in Britain.

The national goalkeeper Iker Castillas said: "Before games, when I hear players from another country singing their anthem, we seem a little strange." The tennis star Carlos Moya said: "Tennis players don't often have to sing a national anthem, but I would sing it if it had words."

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